Critical Evaluation

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Although Bracket Omensetter appears to be the protagonist of Omensetter’s Luck, he functions principally as the catalyst who forces the three articulate character-narrators—Henry Pimber, Israbestis Tott, and Jethro Furber—to confront their dissatisfactions, limitations, and perceptions. In telling contrast with their human foibles, Omensetter is described in natural terms as “a wide and happy man [who] could whistle like the cardinal whistles in the deep snow, or whirr like the shy ’white rising from its cover, or be the lark a-chuckle at the sky.’” By creating in Omensetter a kind of anthropomorphic nature, William H. Gass sought to examine the painful definitions of the human condition.

Tott, who introduces the novel, looks back at the pivotal events. His impressionistic vision, somewhat blurred and unsynchronized by age, has been likened to Benjy’s dreamlike impressions that introduce William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury (1929). The significant details that constitute a part of Tott’s miscellaneous stream of meditations serve as intimations that later give the more fully narrated events of the story a sense of familiarity and importance. In contrast to the other character-narrators, Tott remains detached from Omensetter, neither loving him, as Pimber does, nor hating him, as Furber does. Gass uses Tott’s remoteness from Omensetter to delineate his social irrelevance and remoteness from life.

Pimber, whose admiration and love for Omensetter drive him to suicide, is characterized as weak, impressionable, and self-conscious. Omensetter’s simple laughter at their first meeting touches Pimber profoundly. “Sweetly merciful God, Henry wondered, sweetly merciful God, what has struck me?” Thereafter, his sensitivity to Omensetter’s vitality and “luck” brings home to him his own dissatisfactions and frailties. For him, the human condition signifies ceaseless ineptitude, inferiority, and humiliation, which were the primary colors of his boyhood and of his marriage to Lucy Pimber. Both his wife’s physical makeup and her sexual needs repel Pimber, as do the human weaknesses and needs of the townspeople of Gilean. Like the other characters of Omensetter’s Luck, he interprets Omensetter’s power to validate his own preoccupations.

Yearning for escape, Pimber sees Omensetter as the symbol of that escape, the refuge of nature. To Pimber, Omensetter, who “always seemed inhuman as a tree,” represents the chance...

(The entire section is 1024 words.)